Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Help! I am a Rummage Sale Junkie! (On Battling Materialism)

It's rummage season! The combination of my small-town sensibility, cheapness, and love for old shit make me a rummage sale addict. Wingback chairs are my crack.

 I’m still taking flak from last year’s summer-long bender when I bought a total of seven chairs, an ottoman, and a sofa. I soon realized that a.) when it comes to re-uholstery, I ain’t got skillz, b.) Victorian-era furniture is designed to look nice and keep clothes from wrinkling, not for comfort, and c.) my family and friends seem to appreciate comfort more than un-wrinkly clothes. Long story short, after a few re-arrangements, I ended up selling or gifting all but two of the chairs, which are now sadly sitting upstairs awaiting me to finish my first attempt at reupholstering.

So when this year’s city-wide rummage rolled around, I tried to stay on the wagon. I targeted the one sale where I knew I could purchase second-hand wardrobes for all of my kids. I didn’t even highlight the ads. Then my main dealer met up with me at church (of all places!) and let me know that she had some stuff that had my name all over it…

I’m going to put it right here on the record that it was not me, but my junkie husband who purchased nine chairs, a settee, and a stool (ok, the stool was me). That’s right; he surpassed my previous seating capacity record! ...and we might start a chair museum.

This chesterfield-style settee and chair are my favorite buys. They’ll find a home in our entry (or “foyer” if we’re feeling fancy). The seats will need re-upholstery, but I’m thinking the backs are ok. The holes in the leather seats reveal that they’re stuffed with straw. Cool!

These parlor chairs will also need re-upholstery. Nate wants to keep the salmonish-gold color, but I’d prefer black, green, or gray. Ticking stripe? Floral? Help us decide!

These babies have the same wood pattern as the others, but with arms, and one is a rocker. They appear to have been re-upholstered in 1970’s style polyester, so we’ll have them done the same as the others…seriously, help us decide!

These kitchen chairs are a bit sturdier and more our style than our current ones which we’ve been borrowing from my grandma. Nate wants to refinish them (sand, stain, varnish), but I think we should just give them a coat of black chalk paint to match the legs of our kitchen table and bench….we seem to have a pattern of disagreement here! (oh yeah, the kids got in on the action, too, with a kid chair. Start ‘em young!)

This stool will help little-ol’-me reach high things in the kitchen. And even though I’m not Norwegian, I sure love rosemaling!

I was just making an innocent trip to the post office when this trunk tempted me to another sale…what can I say, I can’t stop chasing that high...Nate’s not crazy about a trunk as a coffee table, but I think it’s so cool.

So there you have it. My name is Kayla, and I am an addict.

Obviously, I jest. I know that this strange “addiction” doesn’t really have a hold on my brain’s neurotransmitters, but purchasing does give a rush of dopamine, and that shit is dope! Buying second-hand can be financially, environmentally, and even spiritually savvy, but it can also be a gateway drug. After this weekend’s bender, I have to consciously stop myself from letting a few purchases lead me into the dark, dark underbelly of materialism. If wingbacks are my crack, Pinterest is my porn, and now I find myself jonesing for a leather chesterfield, a “writer’s” chair, wallpaper (yes, I’m serious), and a garage. It’s so easy for a “quick hit” to turn into a full-blown obsession.

I’ve learned a few strategies to get myself back on the wagon:
1. Turn Coveting into Gratitude

Rather than thinking about all of the things I would love to change about my home, I need to call to mind my favorite things about it (which incidentally don’t have to do with the house itself): the people who live here and gorgeous countryside surrounding us.
2. Find other Dope

What makes vices like materialism, substance abuse, and overeating so tempting? Dopamine. Thankfully, there are other ways to give our brains that rush without self-destructing. Crossing items off our to-do list, achieving flow in our work, exercise, goal pursuing, music, meditation, hugs, giving, and certain healthy foods are all virtuous ways to get high.
3. Die to Self (Transcend Desire)

The ultimate goal of a Christian is sanctification, to completely die to self so Christ can fully live through us. Buddhists would call this transcendence of desire enlightenment (which seems like a more positive term that better embodies the joy of self-denial, but who am I to question the Holy Spirit's and subsequent translator's choices of terminology...). Even mainstream secularists, through trends such as minimalism and mindfulness, have begun to embrace the ideal of eliminating distractions and focusing on what's important. I happen to believe that God’s grace is the only way to truly transcend desire, but there are certainly different ways of receiving that grace (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, sacraments, etc.).

So, now that I’ve regained control over my impulses, realized how f-ing weak I would be to fight a real addiction, and reclaimed the joy of the pure life, I can freely ask you: What do you think of our rummage purchases? Can you help us solve our differences of opinion on some of the items?


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pope Francis Gave a TED Talk!

Anyone in my “inner-circle” knows that I’ve been crazy for TED Talks lately. (For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, TED is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas on topics of science, business, global ideas, and more through 18-minute-or-less talks. Google it.)  I can queue up some random topics I’m interested in and listen throughout my workday. Over the course of a few hours every day for the last few weeks, I’ve learned a lot. Then in the company of my dear family and friends I can turn any conversation towards the knowledge I've gleaned like an unsolicited book report. Oh yeah, I’m a joy to be around…

So imagine my surprise to found out that His Holiness Pope Francis—the pontificate, successor of Saint Peter, hipster hero—has recorded a surprise TED Talk! Of course I keyed up the webpage right away, and was quickly reminded that I don’t speak Italian! Thankfully, there is an English translation to satisfy my curiosity.
By Zebra48bo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Pope Francis’s talk was pre-recorded in the Vatican for a TED conference which is currently taking place in Vancouver. In viewing the trailer for the current conference, my interest was also piqued by another prominent speaker: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Interestingly, the two religious leaders had very similar takes on the conference's theme: “The Future You.”

I have to imagine both leaders fantasizing about grabbing the coordinators by their shoulders and shaking them to their senses. Don’t call it “The Future You!”  We need the world to think about the future Us!

In fact, the title of the conference seems to play right into the hand of Rabbi Sacks, who suggested that if the anthropologists of the future look back on our present world, they would conclude that we worship the self. “When we have too much of the ‘I’ and not enough of the ‘we,’ we find ourselves vulnerable, fearful and alone,” Sacks said.

Similarly, in his first point Pope Francis outlines his premise that “none of us is an island.”

In his second point, he envisions a brighter future: “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.” Solidarity is the only cure for our current “culture of waste,” which he says, “doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.”

He drives the point home by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, through which Jesus answered the question, “Who is our neighbor?” Everyone. Not just those with similar political or religious views. Not just those within our borders. Not just those who are like us. Everyone.

How many of us are too consumed with our own road, be it money, achievement, or pleasure, to even notice the suffering person in the ditch? Or have we become too desensitized to care?

The pope’s third point is a call-to-action to start a “revolution of tenderness.” He warns the powerful people in the audience of the need to stoop down to another’s level through humility: “…the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

Rabbi Sacks closes his talk with similar inclusiveness: “Do a search-and-replace operation on the text of your mind. Wherever you encounter the word ‘self,’ substitute the word ‘other.’ Instead of self-help, other-help. Instead of self-esteem, other-esteem. We can face any future without fear so long as we know that we won’t face it alone.”

I encourage you to check out the full transcript of Pope Francis’s talk (Rabbi Sacks’s full talk won’t be available for a few more weeks), and share it with a young person you know. Graduation season is fast approaching. Just imagine if our graduates faced the future with a “we” mentality instead of a "me" mentality.  Instead of being consumed by finding a career to fulfill their personal passions, they could create a future that matches their abilities with the pressing needs of the world. It’s not “The Future of You,” or “The Future of Me.” It’s “The Future of Us.”

Monday, April 24, 2017


What a glorious weekend! Everywhere I looked was inspiration, and I had so many thoughts I wanted to write about (ie: how a lot of climate-change deniers probably have a smaller carbon footprint than academic elitists, a former teacher’s unsurprising unaccredited “degree” prompting me to *shrug*, first communion as Catholic cultural initiation, the irony of modern psychology “discovering” ancient wisdom), but then I brushed those ideas out of the way like a stray hair in my face, and ran outside where life awaited!

::The smells:: grilled food, fresh cut lawn, freshly spread manure, poopy diapers (can’t get away from that one!)

::The sounds:: tractors and lawn mowers roaring, children laughing, a Cajun swing band, Nate’s Youtube mix, my favorite hymn, creaky swings, the sweetest voice saying, “God loves it when you smile, Mom.”

::The tastes:: an impromptu cook-out that got kind of fancy, taco brats from Harper’s Meats, French saison from Lion’s Tail, the grace-filled precious blood and body of our Lord

::The beauty:: Marion Pond transforming from deep blue to the golden glaze of sunset, my two boys snug in the bike trailer, unexpected trilliums and the promise of tulips, the lace of a First Communion veil, flutter sleeves and red lipstick, bubbles dancing around the smiling faces of loved ones

::All. The. Feels.:: feet clipping into pedals for the first ride of the season, the breeze on my face, pudgy hands attacking during mass, the weight of multiple little bodies on my lap, sand sifting through my fingers, heart swell

I wish I could bottle up the collective joy of spring just to take a wiff of it come January. Alas; that’s not the rhythm of life! The next best thing? I’ll do my best to revel in the moments as they come and then post my reflections to read when I need to feel the sun on my face again.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A New Covenant Twist for Easter Baskets

I planned to use this post to tell you about an alternative Easter basket idea I had, but first....I just got back from Holy Thursday Mass, and I must say that I've never been so inspired at mass as I was to see a priest moved to tears during consecration for love of Christ present in the Eucharist. What a beautiful testament of faith! I thank the Lord for the grace to believe in the True Presence, and I'll be sure to bring tissues to Good Friday service tomorrow when we're invited to "die with Christ."  Sometimes I'm so focused on forming my children's spirituality during the holidays that I am taken aback when my own faith is stirred.

Moving on...

If you read this post about Santa Claus, it’s probably not surprising that I have similar mixed feelings about the Easter Bunny. In general, I think the stealthy fluffball distracts from the true meaning of Easter. I want my children to form memories of Easter being a sacred time…yet I don’t want to deprive them of all the sweet treats that make the holiday fun for kids.  

So, I’ve come up with a compromise for our family, and I thought I’d pass it along in case any of you out there have the same dilemma.

First of all, we’ll do our best to pack our Holy Week with meaning by attending Triduim services. Holy Week is a rich sensory experience for Catholics with sorrowful hymns, fragrance of incense, sweetness of the Eucharist, cold of the crucifix, and finally the visual splendor of the Easter candle slowly spreading light throughout the congregation. It's a lot to unpack, but we'll do our best to explain the gospels and traditions in kid-friendly terms.
Easter Vigil-St. Mary's, Holliston by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's photostream (2011) via Flickr, CC
I also planned this new activity to drive the point home:

Part 1: Good Friday or Holy Saturday
Supplies: Rocks, Backpack, Blindfold
Activity: Explain that the rocks represent our sins, then fill the backpacks with them. Blindfold the children and then lead them on a walk (or obstacle course, if you're daring) while they wear the rock-filled backpacks.
Lesson: This is what it would be like to try to get to Heaven without Jesus. Our sins would weigh us down and we wouldn’t be able to see the way.
Then have the children put the rocks in their Easter baskets.

Part 2: Easter Sunday
Supplies: Easter basket, eggs, peeps, candy cane, chocolate cross, chocolate coins, fruit, mini flashlight, grape juice & crackers, book about a saint, kite (
or modify these options with your own Easter favorites!)
Activity: Replace the rocks with Easter goodies.
Lesson: Help the children read this explanation of their Easter treats:

Christ has died to take away our Image result for clipart rock(sins), but He has risen to give us Image result for clipart easter egg Image result for clipart peep chick (new life)!

He is ourImage result for clipart candy cane (shepherd) leading us on a new path to heaven.

We must take up our Image result for cross clipart (cross) and follow Him.

We will be selfless on earth so we can store up Image result for chocolate coins clipart (treasure) in heaven.

By loving God and each other, we will bear Image result for fruit clipart (fruit) for His Kingdom.

He has set up His Church to help Image result for clipart flash light(light) the way.

He has given Himself to us in the Image result for clipart eucharist (Eucharist) as food for the journey.

We can learn from the Image result for clipart saint (saints) who have come before us.

Keep following Him, and Christ will Image result for clipart kite(raise) you up, too! 

I wish I had the time and motivation to do these kinds of activities more often, but I’m hoping this one turns into a memorable tradition that we can expand upon as the kids mature. What Easter traditions do your family observe?


Monday, April 10, 2017

It's My Birthday (and I'll Go Outside if I Want To!)

I turned 28 yesterday, and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful weekend to celebrate! On Saturday we spent time at the Dells of the Eau Claire Park, checked out Red Eye Brewing, and came back home for drinks with friends. We spent Sunday at a friend’s birthday party enjoying the weather with kite flying and porch sitting.

I'm envisioning some big plans unfolding this year—childhood dreams being reignited, new paths being illuminated…oh, and we’re getting a minivan (I guess I’m officially uncool…)!  

It was also Palm Sunday, and as I contemplated the gospel I wondered: did Jesus know what He was getting into? As He rode into the streets of Jerusalem surrounded by people praising Him with their whole hearts, did He anticipate the extreme pain that was just around the corner?

My contemplation called to mind walking at the park with Victor the day before. Impatiently he kept asking, “Where going?” I had a hard time getting through to him that I didn’t know where the path would go; we were just walking to enjoy the day.

And there’s the lesson I’ll try to take with me this year: Happiness is not a destination; it is a way of life. The memory of this weekend will serve as a reminder to slow down and enjoy the ride.

The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack,
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
He restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" Helped Me Understand Redemptive Suffering

With hubby away at a beer tasting, I did a little guilty-pleasure binge-watching this past weekend….well, actually thirteen hours’ worth of binge-watching Netflix’s new series “13 Reasons Why.” The show follows a teenage boy named Clay who receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of his classmate, Hannah Baker’s choice to commit suicide. Obviously it’s pretty dark, and it’s full of topical references to the issues that plague today’s teenagers: bullying, mass-texting, homosexuality, peer pressure, sexual assault, and more. While the plotline is pretty over-the-top, the teenage interactions are actually pretty believable and the main character Clay is incredibly endearing.
As a Christian, it also stirred up some very Lenten appropriate thoughts on suffering, what we can do to help, and Abraham Lincoln. (Ok, so Abraham Lincoln might seem a little random, but trust me; there’s a connection…)
Why is there suffering? Undoubtedly many people have lost faith in God because of the inability to reconcile the image of a loving father allowing His children to suffer when, being all-powerful, He could change it all. The Bible teaches us that suffering was introduced to the world as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience.  “No more free ride,” God said. Now Adam would have to till the earth for food and Eve would suffer pain in childbirth.

The Apostle Paul thought of Jesus as the “second Adam”; just as Adam’s disobedience caused “the Fall,” Jesus’s obedience caused “the Rise.” But if Adam’s disobedience introduced suffering, why didn’t Jesus’s obedience end all suffering? And why did Jesus Himself, a sinless man, have to suffer? Since God is all-powerful, couldn’t He have just declared, “Ok guys, I changed the rules. No more animal sacrifices. I’m going to open up the gates of Heaven to anyone who repents and follows Me.….Oh, and you can eat pork now.”?

The answer is because Jesus wasn’t just a blood-ransom.  He’s our brother, sent to show us how much God loves us, how to love God better, and how to love each other. He was the Sacrificial Lamb, but He was also the Good Shepherd, leading us by showing us the way. Christ’s suffering ran the gamut of temptation, betrayal, ridicule, whipping, fatigue, and thirst, but to me the most heart-wrenching part was as He was nearing the end and He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As in any good drama, the rising action of the passion has led to this climax where Christ experiences the most profound suffering possible: abandonment.
I recently read that early in Mother Theresa’s ministry she rescued a woman who had been left to die on the streets of Calcutta. She later told audiences around the world of the great lesson she learned that day: what caused the woman to weep was not that she was on the brink of death and half-consumed by maggots, but that it had been her own son who had abandoned her. She was alone and unwanted. This and other encounters would lead her to say, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.”
Now, it may seem extreme to consider something as common as loneliness (albeit profound loneliness) as the biggest problem in our great big world, but consider how many young people are lost to suicide, that mental health issues are the leading cause of disability worldwide, and how your own family and friends have seen you through difficult times in your life by leading you to the next step in solving problems.
So Jesus, too, had to suffer this worst possible pain, but when He uttered those agonizing words from the cross, He was also reminding us that there was more to the story. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is also the first line of Psalm 22, which powerfully foreshadowed Christ’s crucifixion:
“they pierce my hands and my feet.
 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.”
But that’s not the end of the Psalm. It closes by saying:
“Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!”
And therein lies the answer to our question. Why is there suffering? Because obedient suffering can lead us to new life. Jesus’s suffering lead to His resurrection. The toil of a farmer leads to crops. The pain of childbirth leads to a baby. And even seemingly arbitrary suffering has purpose in the grand scheme of life. Take Abraham Lincoln (told you I’d get to him!), who famously suffered extreme depression to the point where his friends had to take shifts just being with him so he wouldn’t kill himself. But for all of this extreme “melancholy” as they called it in those days, Lincoln had a strong belief in predestination, that God was calling him towards an influential life. And perhaps it was his already darkened mind that allowed him to stand face-to-face with the greatest evils of his day.
But how can we help each other to move beyond misery to redemption? Thinking back to the teeny-bopper Netflix series, post-mortem Hannah Baker reflects that maybe everything would have been different if she had just one friend. And for all its cheesiness, that simple sentiment rings true.
Jesus didn’t say He was going to end all suffering. What He did say was:
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
 and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
He offers Himself to help shoulder our burden. By yoking ourselves to Christ, we are also “taking up our cross” in laying down our own lives and uniting all of our sufferings for the redemption of humanity.  Because if we are yoked to Jesus, aren’t we also yoked to billions of other people?

If Mother Theresa was right, and abandonment is truly the worst problem plaguing the world today, it is also the greatest injustice, because it is a problem that costs so little to solve. We don’t need to be experts on health or social justice or venture capitalism. We just need to reach out and love enough to take on a little bit of each other’s burdens. To revisit our old friend Honest Abe, his friends didn’t have PhD’s in psychology. They were simply there for him.

(BTW, the idea of new life born out of suffering bears true in modern psychological research as well—check out this Ted Talk on super resilience: “Falling Up” and various others that point to positive social interactions as Step 1 of building resiliency). 
As we approach Holy Week I’ll be reflecting on how I can help to shoulder the burdens of those around me. If any of you need that help to lighten the load, let me know. I’m a strong farmgirl, after all.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Memory in the Making

This girl turned FOUR today! Where has the time gone!?


If you ask me, four seems like a milestone year for one odd reason. Sure, she’ll be starting school, learning to tie her shoes, and hopefully getting over this threenager business, but even more consequential to me is that four-year-olds develop long-term memories.

Memories are very important to me. I have vivid memories of my own childhood (mostly storybook farm scenes), and I'm somewhat of a closet sentimentalist. In fact, since I’m pretty crappy at living “in-the-moment,” my own version of mindfulness is a convoluted way of being nostalgic about the present that looks something like looking into the future to see myself recalling the present moment as “the good ol’ days” of the past…that makes sense, right!?

Anyhooo… Lou and I had a “girls’ day” today. I let her come up with ideas for what she wanted to do on her birthday, and right there on the top of the list was going shopping to pick out a present. Now, she’s been asking since Christmas to go to a toy store so she can pick something out, and I’ve found lots of reasons why that’s a terrible idea. I pictured her greed for leading to whining and crying  in the aisles while on-looking shoppers glared at the ruin of her fourth birthday.

But then one of my own childhood memories flashed back to me. It was my own fourth birthday, and Mom and Dad took me to a toy-store to choose a present. I remember them seeming irritated as I leisurely perused the aisles, probably tense about my indecision and potential looming meltdown. In the end, I chose a Baby Alive doll with minimal consternation. As it turns out, four-year-olds can be pretty mature.

So, we agreed to let her pick out her own birthday present.

And what did she choose?

Of course, a Baby Alive.

….JUST KIDDING...but that would’ve been pretty crazy!

She actually did think about a Baby Alive, but she ended up choosing some doll accessories and was very mature about the decision-making process. Meanwhile, I spent the day trying to fill her head with some of her first fuzzy memories. As we drove I told her about the Palm Sunday she was born, how she got her name (from her great-grandpa), how she was almost named Elsa (she was born six months before “Frozen” came out!), and how excited I am for her to grow up so we can look back on our memories together!